Having it All

Sandberg's TED Talk arose from her desire to see women stay in the workforce after starting a family. Unfortunately, she says, women often start "leaning back" in their jobs when they decide to have children. In other words, they stop stepping up for promotions, special projects and other opportunities for advancement.

Susan Smith Ellis, chief marketing officer for Getty Images who also spoke at the symposium last spring, encouraged the women to "never say ‘no' to opportunities" because you never know where they could lead. "Careers aren't always linear," said the former CEO of Product (RED), the global marketing company founded by Bono and Bobby Shriver to raise money to fight AIDS in Africa. "There's lots of ways to get where you're going."

Her own life is a case in point. Smith Ellis planned to be a book editor until she was 27, at which point she and her first husband were going to start a family-four children whom they'd "dress in matching sweatshirts while vacationing at the Jersey Shore." But as life would have it, plans changed and Smith Ellis ended up on a different path.

She and her first husband divorced, and after remarrying, she took six years off to raise her two children to school age. But by not saying "no" to the opportunities that came her way, she proved that a woman can have a family and a highly successful career-perhaps just not at the same time. She encouraged the women to find balance between their personal and professional lives, and understand that the scales will shift from one to the other over the course of their lives.

That said, Smith Ellis readily admits that she thought she was "toast" when she first stepped back into the work world after children. But following her father's advice to face her fearsand conquer them, she managed to climb her way to the top of her field. By staying open to opportunities, working her networks and not giving up, Smith Ellis went on to become one of the top marketers in the world.

Susan Smith Ellis

Join the Conversation

What's Next